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By Sarah Marshall


The Montréal Review, May 2012


Margaret Gorman, 1921, won the title of Miss America in sea-green chiffon, and later owned a greyhound named Long Goodie.

Mary Campbell, 1922 and 1923, was the only two-time Miss America, and lied about her age to compete.

Ruth Malcolm, 1924, published for the benefit of other aspiring Miss Americas her ten rules for beauty:

1) Rise early.

2) Eat a hearty breakfast.

3) Exercise.

4) No alcohol.

5) Smoking is detrimental.

6) Get outdoors.

7) Eat a light lunch.

8) Eat a satisfying dinner.

9) Early to bed.

10) Sleep.

Fay Lanphier, 1925, appeared as a thinly veiled version of herself, opposite Douglas Fairbanks and Louise Brooks, in a movie titled The American Venus.

Norma Smallwood, 1926, the first Native American Miss America, made $100,000 as a poster girl for Meadows Washing Machines and Westinghouse Electric.

Lois Delander, 1927, was born on Valentine's Day, became Miss America on her parents' anniversary, and declined to take the screen test that was offered to her as a prize.

Marian Bergeron, 1933, won the title at 15½, was deemed too young for a screen test, and sang for Guy Lombardo's band.

Henrietta Leaver, 1935, had dropped out of high school to support her family with a job at the McKeesport, PA Five and Dime. In the pageant's first talent competition, she sang Louis Prima's "Living in a Great Big Way"-

Got a handful of nothin'

And I watch it like a hawk

Well, I'm doin' OK

I'm livin' in a great big way

Rose Coyle, 1936, tap danced for 8½ minutes during the talent competition and then came back onstage for an encore.

Bette Cooper, 1937, entered the pageant as a representative of an amusement park in Hopatcong, NJ, and disappeared for 24 hours after her crowning, overwhelmed by her newfound obligations.

Marilyn Meseke, 1938, was adopted by her maternal grandmother as a baby and became the first Miss America whose crowning was shown to national audiences, as part of a theatrical newsreel.

Patricia Donnelly, 1939, believing she had no chance of winning, went swimming on the day of the competition in her only bathing suit.

Frances Burke, 1940, told an interviewer in 1995: "The pageant was the highlight of my young life. I'll always be proud to have been a part of an American dream."

Rosemary LaPlanche, 1941, toured with the USO and once sold $50,000 worth of war bonds in a single day.

Jo-Carroll Dennison, 1942, entered the Miss Tyler, Texas pageant because of the offer of a new bathing suit, then unwillingly progressed to mandatory competition in Miss East Texas, Miss Texas, and Miss America.

Jean Bartel, 1943, the first college student to become Miss America, refused to pose in her bathing suit after the competition and donated her crown to the Smithsonian Museum.

Venus Ramey, 1944, the first redheaded Miss America, was painted B-17 Flying Fortress that made 68 sorties over Germany and never lost a man.

Bess Myerson, 1945, the first and only Jewish Miss America, ignored multiple suggestions that she change her name, served as chair of the Anti-Defamation League, and was arrested for shoplifting.

Marilyn Buferd, 1946, used her prize money to go to Italy and married a former officer of Mussolini's navy.

Barbara Jo Walker, 1947, was the last Miss America to be crowned in a bathing suit and performed as a soloist at Memphis' Second Presbyterian Church for 36 years.

BeBe Shopp, 1948, visited Paris and said of the newly-invented bikini: "French girls can wear them if they want to, but I still don't approve of them on American girls."

Jacque Mercer, 1949, was the last Miss America to be born outside of a hospital, and married and divorced while serving her term. Of the pageant, she said: " I just figured if you could learn to be a brain, you could learn to be a woman. Nobody figured I could do anything anyway."

Yolanda Betbeze, 1951, refused to pose in a bathing suit, causing a sponsor, the Catalina Swimwear Company, to withdraw its support and create the Miss USA Pageant the following year.

Colleen Hutchins, 1952, who stood over six feet tall in heels, married a former professional basketball player and honeymooned at Queen Elizabeth's coronation.

Neva Langley, 1953, the former Florida State Tangerine Queen, was a classically trained pianist who raised four children and returned to public performance at the age of fifty-six.

Evelyn Ay, 1954, was crowned in the first Miss America pageant to be broadcast live, and during her reign advertised the first car marketed specifically to women.

Lee Meriwether, 1955, a classmate of Johnny Mathis, used her prize money to study with Lee Strasberg and starred as Catwoman in the 1966 Batman movie.

Sharon Ritchie, 1956, married five times and lost a son in 9/11. Her biography on the official Miss America website tells us that "because of her great strength and her strong faith in God, she has done remarkably well in bearing the burden."

Marian McKnight, 1957, was rumored to be dating Joe DiMaggio, and won the talent portion of the pageant with an imitation of Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Van Derbur, 1958, a childhood incest survivor, wrote a memoir titled Miss America by Day.

Mary Ann Mobley, 1959, an accomplished actress, filmed documentaries in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Sudan, and was shot at by guerillas in Mozambique.

Lynda Lee Mead, 1960, competed in the talent portion with a comedy routine about split personalities. Her mother died early in her reign, and she took four days off to attend the funeral, then went back to work.

Nancy Fleming, 1961, married the host of The Dating Game and campaigned for Howard Dean in 2004.

Maria Fletcher, 1962, a former Rockette, tap danced in the talent portion to "Somebody Loves Me."

Jacquelyn Mayer, 1963, suffered a near-fatal stroke at twenty-eight and had an Ohio highway named in her honor.

Donna Axum, 1964, returned to her hometown of El Dorado, AR for a parade after her crowning, and was serenaded by a local marching band whose players included future president Bill Clinton.

Vonda Van Dyke, 1965, the only Miss America to also be named Miss Congeniality, performed ventriloquism with a dummy named Kurley-Q and later married a Methodist minister.

Deborah Bryant, 1966, who was crowned at the first pageant to be telecast in color, married a car dealer and honed her tennis skills in later years, telling an interviewer that "it's the kiss of death for me when someone on the other team says they heard I was a Miss America. I feel I have to be extra nice."

Jane Jayroe, 1967, conducted the orchestra during the talent portion and traveled to Vietnam after her crowning to entertain the troops.

Deborah Barnes, 1968, had her farewell speech interrupted by protesters from New York Radical Women. During the talent portion, she had played "Born Free" on the piano.

Judith Ford, 1969, performed a trampoline exhibition for the talent portion, and during her term was appointed to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports by Nixon and Ford.

Pamela Eldred, 1970, became a licensed electrolysis technician, cosmetologist, and color consultant after her term, and volunteered for the National Association of Retarded Children.

Phyllis George, 1971, started a company called Chicken By George and served as the First Lady of Kentucky.

Laurie Schaefer, 1972, performed the National Anthem at the Inaugural Concert for Richard M. Nixon, and later guest starred on "Quantum Leap."

Terry Meeuwsen, 1973, adopted three Ukrainian orphans, an experience she chronicled in a book titled The God Adventure.

Rebecca King, 1974, who became an attorney with a specialization in family law, is the mother of Diana Dreman, 2011's Miss Colorado and a competitor in the 2012 Miss America pageant.

Shirley Cothran, 1975, used her scholarship money to obtain a doctorate in education.

Tawny Godin, 1976, went on to a career as a news anchor in Los Angeles and appeared in Rocky II.

Dorothy Benham, 1977, had three husbands, among them a former Pittsburgh Penguin. Her Wikipedia page informs us that "she has full possession of her dog, Precious, and her cat, Tigger."

Susan Perkins, 1978, interned for the Ohio State Senate and traveled to Baghdad in 2009 with Operation Iraqi Children.

Kylene Barker, 1979, attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where she majored in clothing and textiles and was voted Most Valuable Cheerleader 1974.

Cheryl Prewitt, 1980, owns a bathing suit wholesale company that markets its services to pageant entrants.

Susan Powell, 1981, a coloratura opera singer, hosted a home and garden series on the Discovery Channel.

Elizabeth Ward, 1982, admitted to having a one night stand with Bill Clinton during her reign as Miss America, and filed for bankruptcy in 1999.

Debra Maffett, 1983, grew up in Cut and Shoot, Texas, and hosted a syndicated music show called Hot, Hip & Country.

Vanessa Williams, 1984, the first black Miss America in the pageant's history, was forced to resign her post after Penthouse published photos taken of her before her reign as Miss America.

Suzette Charles, 1984, who took on Vanessa Williams' duties after her resignation, appeared in Milos Forman's Hair as a child actress and was the guest of honor at a party thrown by Andy Warhol.

Sharlene Wells, 1985, grew up in South America and was the daughter of a former general authority of the LDS Church.

Susan Akin, 1986, performed at conventions alongside Bob Hope and was the granddaughter of one of the conspirators in the Mississippi Burning Case of 1964.

Kellye Cash, 1987, the grandniece of Johnny Cash, performed in concert with Billy Joel and appeared in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Branson, Missouri.

Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, 1988, was interviewed by Michael Moore in Roger & Me and became a nurse following her reign.

Gretchen Carlson, 1989, was nannied by Michele Bachmann as a child.

Debbye Turner, 1990, performed "Flight of the Bumblebee" on the marimba during the talent portion.

Marjorie Vincent, 1991, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, changed her career goals from international law to TV journalism following her reign.

Carolyn Sapp, 1992, starred as herself in Miss America: Behind the Crown, a TV movie depicting her physically abusive relationship with a pro football player.

Leanza Cornett, 1993, was the first Miss America to adopt AIDS prevention as her platform, and now serves as a reporter for Animal Planet's annual coverage of the Eukanuba AKC National Dog Show.

Kimberly Aiken, 1994, underwent brain surgery at eleven years old and currently writes a column for Pageantry magazine.

Heather Whitestone, 1995, the first and only Deaf Miss America, had a cochlear implant operation in 2002.

Shawntel Smith, 1996, has a street named after her in her hometown of Muldrow, Oklahoma.

Tara Dawn Holland, 1997, released a self-titled album following her reign, including a song on the subject of abstinence titled "I Saved Myself for You."

Katherine Shindle, 1998, performed as Sally Bowles in the Broadway touring cast of Cabaret, and has a cat named Howard Roark.

Nicole Johnson, 1999, a diabetic, wore a miniature insulin pump on her right hip while competing.

Heather French, 2000, struck and killed a pedestrian at a Louisville intersection in 2003.

Angela Perez Baraquio, 2001, the first Asian-American Miss America, released a video calling on viewers to "end the reign of Roe v. Wade" during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Katie Harman, 2002, who was crowned two weeks after 9/11, made her first official appearance at the World Trade Center site and later married a pilot in the National Guard.

Erika Harold, 2003, competed with a platform of bullying prevention and sexual abstinence and earned a law degree from Harvard following her reign.

Ericka Dunlap, 2004, founded a consulting firm and appeared on the fifteenth season of The Amazing Race.

Deirdre Downs, 2005, planned to become a pediatrician but changed her focus to obstetrics and gynecology following her reign.

Jennifer Berry, 2006, was baptized in the Church of Christ three months before her crowning.

Lauren Nelson, 2007, won $175,000 on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

Kirsten Haglund, 2008, suffered from anorexia starting at the age of twelve.

Katie Stam, 2009, a former Miss Kentuckiana, showed cattle for 4-H.

Caressa Cameron, 2010, competed for the title of Miss Virginia three times before winning and advancing to the Miss America pageant.

Teresa Scanlan, 2011, the youngest Miss America since 1937, listed "making clothing out of duct tape" among her favorite activities, and enrolled at Patrick Henry College following her reign.

Laura Kaeppeler, 2012, received a $50,000 scholarship upon her crowning, a significant pay cut compared to the $88,000 received by Ericka Dunlap eight years before.


Sarah Marshall's nonfiction work has appeared on the Hairpin and the Awl, and her fiction and poetry have recently appeared in or are forthcoming from alice blue, Haggard & Halloo, elimae, The Roanoke Review, and Hayden's Ferry Review.  She is a student in the MFA Fiction and MA English programs at Portland State University, where she also serves as an undergraduate English instructor and as editor in chief of the Portland Review.


Image: Reclamation (Oil and silver leaf on wood, 2012) by Brat Kunkle.

"Working mainly in gold and silver leaf with black and white paint, Brat Kunkle's paintings incorporate his take on the natural world, religion, the appeal of femininity and the properties of gold and silver to create technically precise works of art that allow the viewer to interact with them in ways usually not found in traditional painting." -- American Art Collector

See Brat Kunkle's art at: http://bradkunkle.com


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